My decision to work as a Business Support Associate with Challenges Worldwide has helped me realize that the benefits of volunteering are immense and cannot be undermined. Volunteer engagement in economic growth and development is in its own way a strategic investment in skilling the youth, which will, in the long run, contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. Upon joining Challenges Worldwide, I was pleased to discover that alongside respective placements, the program offers volunteers the chance to progress personally as well as professionally through networking opportunities and partnerships. This soon became a reality when the volunteers actively participated in the 5th Annual Youth Skills Expo held at the Uganda Museum on the 20th October 2017.
This Expo was organized by the Youth Advocacy Foundation Uganda (YAFU) in partnership with other government, private and civil society organizations. These included organizations like Uganda Revenue Authority, Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB), Restless development, Plan International and Centenary Bank among others. The skills Expo was facilitated and honoured by some of the leading figures from both government bodies and the private sector. These included the assistant commissioner of Uganda Revenue Authority, the deputy registrar of URSB, Captain Mike Mukula, Prof Maggie Kigozi, Hon Betty Kamya, Odrek Rwabongo, Innocent Nabasa from NBS television and above all the Youth Member of Parliament Ann Adeke.
Talented and innovative Youth entrepreneurs from different parts of Kampala and the surrounding areas were given an opportunity to exhibit their work. Participants exhibited a variety of items on different stalls and these included art and craft pieces, fabric materials, herbal soap and body lotions to name a few. Besides the exhibitors, the Expo attracted youth from different walks of life; these ranged from secondary to university students, representatives from different civil society organizations, individual business people and youth refugees from neighbouring countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo. The theme of the expo, ‘’EmploymentOopportunities and Linkages for Youth’’ was an obvious hook for its target audience and went a long way in explaining why people turned up in their numbers. Someone would wonder why this was the case but it’s simply because Challenges Worldwide empowers youth between the age of 18 to 25 years to actively participate in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As member states, we believe that the SDGs can fully be attained if youth are fully engaged.
Based on a skills-building approach, facilitators like Odrek Rwabwogo, one of Uganda’s leading entrepreneurs, helped mentor a youth audience about the various techniques of scaling up a business. This was the most captivating and significant topic to volunteers because Challenges Worldwide’s main objective is to help small and medium enterprises to grow. Key issues like commitment to short and long-term goals of the business, professionalism, values/standardization, collaboration, honesty and integrity, competence and customer care were identified as some of the key determinants that can foster the scaling up of any business. With politics being one of the hindrances of Uganda’s economic growth, youth were educated on how they can contribute to their personal development, as well as that of their country as a whole, both without relying on government support.
Following Odrek, the deputy registrar of URSB gave a presentation about the importance of registering a company or business and she further explained the key requirements that qualify an individual or company to register a business with URSB. Many youths, especially those who have a background in science courses are very innovative in their business plans so this kind of advice was very key. Though a few of them were already aware of how they could benefit from commercializing these innovations, this talk helped guide them even further towards taking the next step. The registrar used it as a platform to educate us about the importance of patent rights and/or copyrights and the procedure of procuring a patent. The experience was one of its own kind because the participants were given a chance to register their businesses free of charge.
Additionally, Alfred Yeko, Supervisor Tax Education and Stakeholder Engagement, domestic Taxes of Uganda Revenue Authority presented during the Youth Skills Expo about Tax. He answered a number of questions and the criteria for taxation; whether or not businesses will be taxed, why and how much mainly. This re-enforced to the audience the inseparable link between business and taxation. Furthermore, providing this guidance can enable Challenges Worldwide volunteers to go on to advise businesses on how to grow, scale up and succeed. The sudden reality check was however complemented by the presence of staff from Centenary Bank, who encouraged the idea of business loans which are usually hard to obtain in in Uganda. Making this kind of finance affordable and accessible is a key way that doing business can become easier in Uganda.
In conclusion, we believe that by working in partnership with other organizations with related goals and visions, a lot more can be achieved rather than operating in a vacuum. As volunteers, we believe by actively participating in the Annual Youth Skills Expo, we not only acquired knowledge and skills but also directly contributed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically goal 8 which aims at promoting, inclusive, sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.